Sunday, November 9, 2014

Outlander – Season 1, Episode 8, Both Sides Now – Recap

This episode begins in 20th century Inverness showing Frank’s side of Claire’s disappearance.  I never cared that much about Frank’s suffering but Ron Moore, the producer of Outlander, decided to fill out that part of the story.  The police tell Frank that they have spent six weeks investigating Claire’s disappearance without results and they have concluded she is still alive, probably with the Highlander Frank saw lurking outside her window.   Frank is furious with their lack of effort and assumptions about Claire, and says emphatically that his wife is not with another man.   
Immediate cut away to Claire with her other man – her new husband, Jamie.  They appear to be picnicking on a scenic mountaintop and Jamie is asking her in a tone of mixed shyness and awe, “Is it usual, what it is between us, when I touch you, when you lie with me, is it always so between a man and a woman?” Claire replies gently that it is indeed unusual and different, but before we can enjoy this tender moment, they are interrupted by an arrow.  Thank goodness she is not about to be threatened with rape again, or at least not yet.  Instead, it is Jamie’s old friend Hugh Munro, who is mute due to long ago torture by the Turks but is able to communicate with Jamie.  Hugh gives Claire a piece of amber containing a dragonfly (title of future book alert!) and, more usefully, tells Jamie there is a Redcoat deserter, Horrocks, who might be able to help Jamie clear his name and remove the price from his head.

Frank’s only confidante in his distress is Reverend Wakefield, who has collected all the newspaper clippings and comes up with possible explanations for Claire’s disappearance.  We get our first glimpse of Roger, the reverend’s nephew, adopted when his parents were killed in the Blitz.     At a bar, drowning his sorrows, Frank is approached by a mysterious woman named Sally.  She promises information on the alleged Highlander if Frank meets her that night with the reward money.   I was sure Frank was going to get beat up but I guess his war work, despite being behind a desk, included some self defense because he takes them down easily.  Maybe he is channeling his evil ancestor.  Back at the vicarage, Reverend Wakefield advises Frank to move on with his life.  “You believe she left with the Highlander of her own volition?” Frank asks.  Quoting Sherlock Holmes, Reverend Wakefield says, “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Reverend Wakefield’s housekeeper, Mrs. Graham, insists on telling Frank that there is another explanation for Claire’s disappearance.  She tells him there are legends and songs about the standing stones of Craigh na Dun, about people traveling through time.  Mrs. Graham tells him she believes Claire has traveled to another time but according to legend, some of the travelers return.   Frank listens carefully but tells Mrs. Graham he doesn’t believe her.   He has packed to return to Oxford but on the way, he stops at Craigh na Dun to take a last look.

Back in the 18th century, Angus is instructing Claire in how to use a knife.  When Claire and Jamie sneak away from the MacKenzies for a little alone time, they are interrupted mid-thrust by two deserting English soldiers who grab Jamie.  One holds him at gunpoint while the other attempts to rape Claire.  Terrified, Claire waits for her moment and, aided by her recent lesson, pulls out her dirk and stabs her attacker (in the nick of time) while Jamie is able to pull free and kill the other soldier.  

Afterwards, Claire is in shock and angry at Jamie for failing to protect her.   However, she soon realizes she is primarily angry at herself for giving up her attempt to reach the standing stones and return to Frank.   When she realizes she is close to Craigh na Dun, she ignores Jamie’s request to stay put and rushes toward the stones.  This scene is the most beautifully filmed of the whole series – an unbelievably gorgeous setting and background scenery of hills and valley, with Claire rushing from one direction and century and Frank moving restlessly among the stones in his century, calling her name while he chokes back sobs and his voice reverberates back to the 18th century, causing Claire to speed up.   Somehow he also hears her voice as she calls, “Frank! Wait for me!” but just as she reaches for the stone that we believe would bring her back to the 20th century she is grabbed by Redcoats, and Frank is left alone among the stones and returns to his car.
It would have been tempting to end the episode there as this was a magnificent scene.  But another one is coming: the English soldiers bring Claire to Captain Randall at Fort William.   Captain Randall is still suspicious of Claire and wonders why Dougal was so eager to protect her.   He warns Claire that he will find out her secrets no wonder what it takes – and we all know Captain Randall loves torture and I don’t know about you but I do not want to witness any more of that.   Remembering a theory of Frank’s about Captain Randall, Claire says if he wants to know her secrets perhaps he should ask the Duke of Sandringham.   This ploy works beautifully at first; Claire almost convinces Captain Randall that they are both employed as spies by the Duke, and that the Duke would be annoyed if Claire’s mission is interrupted.   Then Claire oversteps her knowledge and Captain Randall realizes she was bluffing.  He ties her up and Claire screams for help.   Black Jack rips her bodice, waving a knife in her face, and is about to carve up her breast and rape her, laughing diabolically.

At that moment, Jamie appears at the window looking ferocious, and says, “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife.”   Captain Randall looks up, recognizes Jamie instantly from their previous encounters, and his laughter grows deeper and increases its maniacal edge.


What’s Important About This Episode:

·        Claire is in the middle of two important love triangles: the obvious one is Claire-Frank-Jamie but Frank and Jamie don’t know each other.   She is also caught in the relationship between Captain Randall and Jamie, which is characterized by weird fixation on Randall’s side and hatred on Jamie’s, not to mention Randall’s violent obsession with Claire (this is the second time he’s been about to rape her).  From Claire’s perspective, the relationship is complicated by Randall’s resemblance to Frank and her knowledge of his abuse to Jamie, Jenny and his known depredations in the Fort William area.

·        When Jamie appears at the window and reveals Claire is his wife, Captain Randall finally learns he is part of this triangle.  

·        Adding scenes and back story from Frank’s point of view is effective but also causes us to sympathize with him.  Fans of Jamie Fraser may prefer for Frank to stay out of the story.   There are way too many shots of Claire’s wedding rings in this episode.  Okay, we know she is torn.

·        I guess Diana doesn’t want the reader to romanticize the 18th century too much, so she shows the endless conflict and danger faced by the Highlanders.  Did she go a little overboard in this book with all the attacks on Claire? 

·        Roger Mackenzie Wakefield will grow up to be an important character in later books.

·        Two incredible scenes in this episode, sandwiched by Claire’s attempt to bluff Captain Randall (and that doesn't even include Claire's first kill).  How can we all wait until April 4, 2015 when Starz returns with the second half of Season One?  
Images copyright to Starz

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